Detroit Pistons Draft Dreams: Nikola Mirotic

With his size, youth and rapid improvement this season, Nikola Mirotic isn’t likely to slip out of the first round. But if he does somehow, he’d be a great prospect for the Pistons with their first second-round pick.

Info

Measurables: 6-foot-10, 210 pounds 20-year-old PF from Serbia

Key stats: 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds in 17 minutes per game in Spanish League

Projected: Late first/early second round

How would he help the Pistons?

As I’ve pointed out with other international prospects, you can’t simply look at their averages in evaluations, which are rarely that impressively looking. European teams, particularly good teams (Mirotic played for one of the top clubs in Europe), divide minutes. Mirotic’s per-40 minute averages of 21 points and 9 rebounds per game look much more impressive than his overall scoring numbers.

He earned minutes in a front court that includes former NBA All-Rookie Team member Jorge Garbajosa as well as talented veterans of Euro basketball. Mirotic’s rise as a prospect has been remarkable. He didn’t quite come out of nowhere like Bismack Biyombo did, but prior to the season he wasn’t considered much of a prospect for this year and now, he’s nearly neck and neck among international prospects with Donatas Motiejunas, who was once considered a lottery pick.

Along with the improvement, Mirotic is tall and skilled. He’s a great shooter — over 40 percent from 3-point range — although he isn’t strictly a perimeter player. He has nice touch around the basket and moves well without the ball.

How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?

Although Mirotic can score around the basket, he’s not considered a traditional post-up big man, which other than a rim-protecting presence, might be the Pistons’ greatest need. He, like most of the bigs in this draft, needs to add weight. Mirotic is aggressive enough on the boards in Europe, but he’s not strong enough to hold position against NBA bigs just yet.

Mirotic also might not join the team that drafts him for another season or two. He has an expensive buyout and incentives to stay in Spain. That could be a plus, considering his need to develop physically and the looming lockout, but a team like the Pistons could use all of the immediate help in the frontcourt it could get. Waiting for a player like Mirotic might be worth it in the long run, but the Pistons also have short-term goals of becoming competitive again for a new owner who undoubtedly would probably not want to oversee another dismal season.

What are others saying?

From DraftExpress:

Mirotic is very fundamentally sound — never off-balance, always staying solid in his stance and rarely gambling for the sake of making a spectacular play. Nevertheless, he’s been fairly productive statistically, showing excellent timing as a shot-blocker and even getting in the passing lanes on occasion, likely aided greatly by his excellent length. He still needs to add strength (as most 20-year-olds do), but Mirotic has a good frame and should be able to see minutes at either big man position in the NBA, depending on who he’s playing next to.

From ESPN:

On talent, Mirotic is a likely late lottery to mid-first round pick. But concerns about his contract abound. NBA scouts I spoke with believe it may be years before he can come to the NBA after he agreed to a long extension with Real Madrid that runs through 2016. He’s a got a massive buyout on top of that. That’s going to lower his stock if he stays in the draft.

From NBA.com:

Has mid-first round potential, due to contract and youth, stay in Europe for a couple more years, make a lot of money, then come to NBA…much like Luis Scola or Tiago Splitter did.

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